DA hopes environment gets a fair cut in 2013

Gerda Moolman, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Provincial Spokesperson on Environment

The Democratic Alliance in the Northern Cape sincerely hopes that Friday’s State of the Province Address, as well as tomorrow’s national budget and the upcoming provincial budget, will reflect a greater sense of responsibility towards our environment by government. This, as what we can only construe to be the growing effects of climate change on the provincial landscape, is starting to have a tangible impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people of the Northern Cape.

Experts have predicted that, in the coming years, the Northern Cape is set to be the worst affected province in the country when it comes to the devastating effects of climate change. Whilst to some this statement may seem farfetched and very futuristic, what people don’t realize is that this forecast is gradually starting to occur. Just take a look at our increasingly unpredictable climatic and weather conditions, the sporadic rainfall, or the tragic situation currently being experienced at Rooifontein, where hundreds of catfish (barbels) are dying after the marsh in which they reside has dried up, due to the exceptionally dry conditions being experienced.

The DA is deeply concerned that a severely restricted budget is affecting the Northern Cape Department of Environment and Conservation’s ability to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of climate change in the province. According to the AG’s latest report, the department failed to achieve almost half of its planned targets in the 2011/2012 financial year. The AG conceded that the achievement of certain targets was influenced by external factors that are not within the control of the department. It appears that the primary such factor is limited financial resources. In fact, according to the department, zero climate change mitigation and adaptation projects were implemented due to budget constraints.

This is little wonder, considering that this department consistently receives the smallest budget of all provincial departments, receiving less than one percent of the provincial budget, despite it being one of the better performing departments. On top of this, the environmental sector is the only one not to receive a conditional grant.

Furthermore, only last year, it came to light that the department’s already minimal budget was to be cut by R1,037 million in the 2013/14 financial year. It is further expected to be cut by an additional R2,232 million and R3,503 million respectively in 2014/15 and 2015/16 of the MTEF period.

The minimal funding of this department speaks volumes about government’s attitude towards our environment. It appears that government, on both a national and a provincial level, doesn’t comprehend the fact that without sustainable measures in place to protect our environment, a number of other sectors including our natural heritage, agricultural production, water resources and effectively our economy, are under threat. In fact, focus on the green economy, which could potentially stimulate economic opportunity in a province already ravished by high levels of poverty and unemployment, will also be severely stunted.

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